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Use Semantics to Deliver Flexible Service Management and Avoid the Risks of OSS/BSS Transformation

by Arindam Banerjee | April 2009

Executive Summary
The customization and convergence of services across application silos and disparate networks are critical to communications service providers (CSPs) aiming to provide innovative services, reduce customer churn and drive average profitability per user. CSPs realize that providing innovative services is not enough; it is critical to offer end users customized services with consistent and flawless quality of service (QoS), which is impossible without an end-to-end unified customer- and service-level view. This is where most service providers falter. Our research clearly points out the glaring problems that exist with most service providers’ back-office OSS/BSS systems, which are typically complex, disjointed and lack the agility necessary to present a coordinated 360-degree customer-centric view. In a recent global CSP survey conducted by Yankee Group, more than 60 percent of surveyed global CSPs agreed that improved customer experience is directly linked to improved ARPU. Most service providers take a top-down approach to express customer and service views. However, they often adopt a service model that in most cases does not capture the complexity of misaligned as well as heterogeneous underlying infrastructure. Only when the relationships among underlying systems, services and customers are mapped out of the infrastructure is it possible to achieve the goal of traditional service modeling. Therefore, what is needed today is a bottom-up approach that looks at how existing systems map to existing customers instead of a more traditional top-down approach. CSPs have invested billions to streamline and modernize their OSS/BSS infrastructure to achieve the agility required to see all of their assets in one view, which in most cases has failed to deliver the desired service-level transparency. Exhibit 1 illustrates the critical factors inhibiting CSPs from being competitive and delivering innovative services to customers. Not surprisingly, the inability to have a common view of customers, lack of customized service delivery and business process inconsistency are the top factors that hamper service providers from rolling out innovative services. Exhibit 1. Critical Factors Inhibiting CSPs from Being Competitive and Delivering Innovative Services Source: Yankee Group, 2009
Inability to provide tools Inability to provide tools to customers to customize their subscribers to personalize their experience experience 48%

Lack of integration and a common view of the customer and their provisioned services

46%

Lack of business process consistency and integration across lines of business and channels

42%

Inability to manage third-party applications and content partners

41%

0 0%

10 10%

20 20%

30 30%

40 40%

50 50%

60 60%

Percent of Respondents

In light of current economic challenges, it is clear that telecom service providers are squeezing their capex budgets to align with lower revenue growth expectations. Hence, although a unified end-to-end service model remains on top of their priority list instead of full-scale and expensive transformation exercises, CSPs and managed service providers are looking for an alternative low-risk incremental path toward a unified service model. In this report, we look at CSPs’ current operational issues; take a deep dive on a unique, alternate semantics-based approach toward achieving a unified virtual service model; and investigate how such an approach can enable customer centricity by solving the problem of siloed infrastructure data.
This custom publication has been sponsored by Ontology Systems.
© Copyright 2009. Yankee Group Research, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Future of Data Integration Antidotes Depends on the Combined Capability of Semantic Processing and Ontologies IV. The State of the Telecommunications Market Yankee Group believes in the vision and philosophy of the Anywhere Network™. the dynamic nature of the Anywhere Network catalyzes new business models and service opportunities for industry upstarts. this network should promote ubiquitous connectivity and be able to deliver any service on any network via any access method. In a nutshell. The State of the Telecommunications Market 2 3 4 6 7 II. The Main Reasons for Investing in BOSS Transformation Projects Source: Yankee Group. which brings unprecedented service opportunities for the end user. This is directly tied to the lack of visibility into their complex infrastructure. Many CSPs are trying to fix this service delivery problem by investing in next-generation network (NGN) architecture and undertaking expensive and time-consuming business transformation projects. Ontology Systems: Semantics-Based Approach to a Unified Service Model V. To survive this challenge. Yankee Group Research. it disrupts the static business models of traditional service providers. At the same time. Conclusions I. As a result. traditional carriers must understand. The Anywhere Network is Yankee Group’s vision of a seamless and always-accessible intelligent infrastructure that provides a connection for everyone to everything from anywhere.Use Semantics to Deliver Flexible Service Management and Avoid the Risks of OSS/BSS Transformation Table of Contents I. Exhibit 2 illustrates findings from a recent global survey conducted by Yankee Group. Exhibit 2. All rights reserved. . 2009 Top reasons for investing in BOSS transformation projects Reduce operator costs Reducing operator costs 57% Improve customer experience Improve customer experience 52% Simplifying business operations Simplify business operations 43% Increase flexibility respond Increase flexibility toto respond to market challenges market challenges 36% 0 0% 10 10% 20 20% 30 30% 40 40% 50 50% 60 60% Percent of Respondents 2 © Copyright 2009. Catalyzing Convergence via Unified Service Model III. adopt and align themselves with the Anywhere Network and evolve from a closed service delivery mindset to one that is more open and horizontal. Many service providers today run into difficulty when launching or providing complex services for their high-value enterprise customers. Inc.

which inhibits an end-to-end service view in the context of the end-to-end infrastructure over which the services are provided. Expensive system integration projects or big-bang transformation projects are not an ideal approach. All rights reserved. For new initiatives. Top-down service models are useful for simplistic and uniform services. tightly coupled back-office systems. they clearly pointed out that there will be a slowdown (or perhaps a decline) in large IT investments as service providers put their dollars toward activities that keep the lights on. which present no holistic view of customers and their service information because they are buried in the complex tapestry of systems and network. In our opinion for these complex services. customer interactions will be viewed as more than just billing or call center relationships. Exhibit 3 (on the next page) illustrates how a unified virtual service model enhances data integrity and provides major benefits to CSPs. and we will witness far fewer full-scale BSS/OSS transformation or legacy replacement projects.March 2009 As illustrated in Exhibit 2. which has traditionally been looked upon for its best practices methodology for IT service management. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). a bottom-up service model is the ideal approach because it can comprehend where a particular service has incorrect data based on inconsistencies found on underlying systems. OSS architecture reference frameworks. is gradually being introduced in the CSP service management domain. It provides a single model of customers and their end-to-end service view in the context of the infrastructure over which they are provided. require a unified service model to enable a wide range of organizational functions. 3 . service resources and supporting network configuration according to carrier needs. Catalyzing Convergence via a Unified Service Model A single and central view of customers. Driven in part by next-generation OSS/BSS technologies. II. carriers will need to take advantage of all the data sources from network elements and network-facing OSSs. It also continues at the network level every time a customer consumes a service. master data type model. • Inefficiency in launching new products and services because of their organizational and back-office issues. Vendors have a lot of work to do under the guidance of the TeleManagement Forum (TM Forum) to align the enhanced Telecom Operations Map (eTOM) and ITIL. Current methods for achieving such a unified model suffer from limitations in agility brought about by the inflexible nature of their approaches. Yankee Group Research. • Lack of efficient service management and assurance because of siloed infrastructure. It should be noted that enterprise-focused services are too complex to map into a © Copyright 2009. such as TM Forum’s SID and ITIL. It also enables operators to choose a better course of action by resolving ambiguity and hence not disappoint the customer. This can never be achieved without an end-to-end unified service model or system that accurately represents the state of the actual infrastructure in its complex variants. The path to achieving a successful unified service model is heavily dependent on solving data integration problems among different systems and networks. We firmly believe that just launching and fulfilling innovative services is not enough because a critical cornerstone of service providers’ success revolves around operational efficiency and delivering a superior customer experience. Inc. complex. and they will be evaluating cost-effective measures to obtain an end-toend customer and service view. automation in product life cycle management and automation in service fulfillment. So does that mean that operators will shy away from achieving an end-to-end customer and service view? Or will they look for alternative cost-effective approaches to achieve a 360-degree view of customers and their services? Our research proves that achieving customer centricity is among the top priorities for most CSPs. • Migrating and transforming to more efficient infrastructure is extremely difficult and high risk. In fact. especially in light of current global economic turmoil. Service assurance and service management are critical components for success of next-generation architecture. provisioned and activated. Service management helps service providers understand the status of service quality for different services. Some of the critical problems that CSPs face today are: • Siloed. top-down. Tier 1 carriers are placing more emphasis on establishing a unified view of customers and making sure the view is accurate and up to date as it becomes critical for them to consider customer interaction from the moment a new service order is initiated. improving customers’ experience and reducing operating costs are the critical drivers for CSPs to invest in BOSS transformation projects. including service-centric network management. what combinations of different service quality scenarios are possible and which service quality scenarios deliver the greatest value to the CSPs. in our recent conversations with operators’ C-level executives. operators will focus on tactical deployments with a rapid ROI directed toward opex reduction. their provisioned services and their interactions with network resources is the only way to provide customer centricity. As such. A unified service model enables services to be correlated across customer support. CSPs today struggle with complex back-office integration issues that can be directly tied to the lack of unified service models. but fall short of expectations when more complex services for specific enterprise clients are considered. customer service assurance. and the only way to do this is by achieving a unified service model.

and one very effective way of doing that can be by borrowing the manufacturing concepts of CAD/CAM. 2009 $ Cost Control • Accurate and up-to-date service model • Remove duplication • Combine procedures and processes • Automation where possible Opex Reduction Enabling Service Management Customer Value Creation Unified Virtual Service Model • Assure pleasurable customer experience • Customization. This approach helps solve data integration issues by simplifying the way service providers manage and understand their operational systems through customer and service transparency across the OSS/BSS infrastructure and networks.Use Semantics to Deliver Flexible Service Management and Avoid the Risks of OSS/BSS Transformation Exhibit 3. The CAD/CAM approach relies on the bottom-up construction of product models from components specified and allows adapting that approach to CSP’s back-office systems. broader commercial frameworks Increase Service Velocity Time-to-Market and Adaptability • Introduce and fulfill new services quickly • Support new business models (content. Inc. The CAD/CAM approach to construct bottom-up product models is embodied in Ontology Systems’ product. . OSS/CAD. 4 © Copyright 2009. which allow fluid machine-to-machine conversation irrespective of the numbers of underlying systems and databases. provisioned services. resource information and underlying network infrastructure that support this overall relationship. All rights reserved. The Future of Data Integration Antidotes Depends on the Combined Capability of Semantic Processing and Ontologies Semantic concepts advocate formally rigorous formats for integrating and combining data drawn from different sources. enabled by network intelligence and context awareness • Expanded through richer. properties and relationships.and media-centric) • Embraces horizontal integration • Respond quickly to underlying network configuration changes In Yankee Group’s opinion. OSS and network infrastructure by utilizing a combination of ontology and semantics. III. which helps with integration via loose coupling. Semantics offers a bridge toward this proven approach by permitting existing OSS and BSS system data to be redefined as richly defined resource components that combine. Ontology in the context of IT and software is a model for describing a world that consists of a set of types. like parts in a CAD design. into a larger. the time is now ripe for adopting alternate approaches to solve data integration problems. which in telecom lingo can closely reflect service models that link entities such as customer. Contextual information enhances the meaning of data. Key Advantages of a Unified Service Model Source: Yankee Group. The combination of semantic processing and ontology is a very powerful integration technology that is context aware and unleashes the power of interlinked end-to-end service information in the form of a virtual service model. It enables relationships and linking of information. Ontology Systems is a company revolutionizing the service transparency approach across BSS. Yankee Group Research. consistent and understandable structure.

enabling them to make critical decisions that focus on planning around discrete elements. the virtual model drills down from a customer’s provisioned services to pieces of the equipment that are responsible for supporting those services. All rights reserved. systems do not need to be replaced. Failure to process and manage network utilization and new forecasts accurately will curb CSPs’ ability to ascertain whether the network has sufficient resources to support future growth based on marketing and field sales activities. which helps them to get visibility into their network infrastructure as well as the applications that support their utilized services. The OSS/CAD approach will provide a unified service model based on inputs from various systems that can arm CSPs with vital information. This technology solves the problem of misaligned data. Yankee Group Research. • OSS/CAD’s approach enables service management by providing a unified virtual service model that helps to identify network inventory resources. increases flexibility and lowers the cost of ownership associated with traditional data integration projects. isolate and resolve problems faster. Besides the obvious cost reductions. • Most operators cannot extract accurate network information at short intervals.March 2009 Because this combined technology relies on existing data. 5 . detailed multilayer routing topology information and interrelationships between application servers and application environments. with initial phases completed within weeks. This approach is a huge catalyst for holistic service management and effectively combines service management concepts with FCAPs. Whichever the desired representation. Key Advantages of Semantic Processing and Ontologies Source: Yankee Group. this can be achieved. In case of problems. the other benefits that this approach can bring to stakeholders of a typical CSP organization are illustrated in Exhibit 4. which enables OSS/CAD to be deployed rapidly and incrementally. 2009 Key CSPs challenges around data integration effort Expensive and time consuming data integration projects Value addition provided by OSS/CAD semantic-based approach • Agile control of OSS/BSS systems • Improved data integrity and correct alignment of siloed systems • Cost and revenue-based service impact analysis and job prioritization • Improves management of the customer experience Key components of OSS/CAD approach Data Import Lack of a unified service model negatively impacting service impact analysis Data Enrichment Impossible to achieve end-toend service management • Provides revenue assurance • Credible alternative to BSS/OSS systems replacement and large transformation projects Data Transformation High opex cost associated with data integrity issues • Defers capex via extension of legacy system life cycle • Provides a single view of services enabling service transparency Data Combination © Copyright 2009. For customers. Other significant advantages that operators can obtain from semantic technology are as follows: • The most critical advantage for adopting this approach is that there is no requirement for a large model design and integration project. which reduces the risk and requirement associated with big-bang transformation projects. This approach pulls data from different systems and models and maps it into the SPs’ desired representation. Exhibit 4. efficient and automated service modeling helps to identify. this bottom-up approach helps to define actual service models. if a SID-based virtual model is desired. Inc. For example. creates a single view.

Instead. merely capturing customer information and order requests will not create a satisfied customer. able to verify and evaluate in underlying systems and models. the data as needed is loaded into a semantic context. Ontology Systems: Semantics-Based Approach to a Unified Service Model Yankee Group has always maintained that agility and customer centricity are the cornerstones of success for CSPs in today’s competitive and economic environment. service providers have recognized that these misalignments occur more and have dealt with them periodically through consulting projects. associating data from underlying systems with metadata tagging is a highly manual and cumbersome process. This is conceptually similar to metadata tagging and allows the system user to choose only the data needed to specifically solve his or her use case. application environments. These include the various layers of the network infrastructure. Customer centricity is not just CRM functionality. Ontology’s OSS/CAD solution has three core components: • OSS/CAD Modeller is an integrated environment that helps the designer build. which leverages inference-capable processing cells to interpret the semantics of the incoming data and fit the data instances into a virtual unified service model. application servers. eliminating both the delay and expense in the traditional approach. Typically. Ironically. OSS/CAD offers an alternative that spots system and service misalignments by identifying underlying data quality and alignment problems as they occur. lower operational cost associated with metadata management activities semantic approach provides the added advantage of creation and modification of knowledge models. Yankee Group Research. to rationalize the cost of these projects SPs needed to wait for the numbers to build up to justify the expense of the consultative effort. For customers as well as for enterprise customers. Inc. with zero downtime. . In case of problems. 6 © Copyright 2009. This step helps to avoid data errors and maintain data integrity. A key aspect of the semantic approach to integration that distinguishes it from existing mechanisms such as metadata tagging is that it results in extremely loosely coupled systems that significantly reduce the total cost of ownership and ongoing maintenance. • OSS/CAD’s approach enables service management by providing a unified virtual service model that helps to identify and pull together the multitude of OSS and BSS systems that fulfill and describe customer services. to manage performance. • Data transformation: This step involves data transformation. visualize and interact with the knowledge models model and extend OSS/CAD out-of-the-box functionality for applications such as connecting to OSS systems and service impact analysis. IV. efficient and automated service modeling helps to identify. In addition to the benefits of a loosely coupled system. However. Conflicting and misaligned representations of the status of assets in different systems can result in an inability to use that asset or can result in that asset being overlooked for utilization or billing. isolate and resolve problems faster. but further nodes can be added to a deployment dynamically. and mapping those services to the labyrinth of network infrastructure accurately to enable service management provides major value proposition for CSPs that are in constant pursuit of achieving excellence in customer experience management. • OSS/CAD Runtime is a general-purpose analysis capability that uses automated inference systems. • OSS/CAD OntoPacks are packages of functionalities including application components and associated knowledge models that provides the flexibility and agility necessary to express the concepts contained in a telecommunications or managed service BSS/OSS environment. using a semantic approach with inference engines in combination with knowledge models can make this process largely automatic. The most basic configuration consists of a single processing node. Based on these three core components. having an end-to-end unified view of customers and their provisioned services. availability and resilience concerns. Traditionally. It is a peer-topeer distributed execution environment that hosts OSS/ CAD applications.Use Semantics to Deliver Flexible Service Management and Avoid the Risks of OSS/BSS Transformation • Most operators have difficulty understanding and analyzing information from multiple sources about the assets they use to provide customer services. and avoid revenue leakage. All rights reserved. CRM and billing systems. Ontology’s solution converts data into a unified service model based on few finite steps: • Data extraction: Data is directly translated from an incoming format to a common semantic data format. this mechanism helps operators improve service delivery and SLA breaches. • Data tagging: In this step in OSS/CAD.

Ontology’s approach in light of the current economic as well as competitive situation is noteworthy. All rights reserved. we believe that there will be a slowdown in large IT investments as service providers put their dollars toward activities that are critical to running their business operations. cost-effective manner. Yankee Group Research. usability and integrity of data across their OSS and BSS infrastructure. 7 . Ontology’s unique approach will help CSPs by providing them seamless service modeling and service management capability in an agile. OSS/CAD gives service providers an incremental. Inc. © Copyright 2009. practical way to avoid development costs associated with OSS transformation projects by providing a radically different way to interpret and query their data. Ontology can create a virtual unified service model with minimal predefined structures that can be imported into OSS/CAD. Operators will focus on tactical deployments with a rapid ROI directed toward opex and capex reduction and will be wary of investing in services’ heavy data integration projects. This helps service providers to maximize the value of legacy data held within their infrastructure and reduce their need to alter their operations and business support systems. Conclusions In light of the current economic downturn. In a unique cost-effective way using semantic technologies.March 2009 V. Service providers can combine semantics with domain-specific knowledge to interpret the validity.

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